Friday, February 22, 2013

Kim Dotcom - PR Puppetmaster or Defender of the Internet?

With the launch of it seems larger-than-life internet mastermind, German Kim Dotcom is well on his way to rebuilding his empire (but it has not gone down without a few hiccups).

Kim Dotcom sprang to fame on 20 January 2012 when his Coatesville mansion, north of Auckland, New Zealand was dramatically raided by 70 New Zealand Police officers in cooperation with the FBI.

The source of the drama was Kim Dotcom’s ‘MegaUpload’, a file-sharing website that had owners and associates indicted in the US weeks earlier for criminal copyright infringements, racketeering and money laundering. The US Department of Justice declared the entire operation a “mega conspiracy” and millions of dollars of assets we confiscated during the raids.

A media storm ensued; questioning whether the FBI had any right to be operating in New Zealand; and why MegaUpload was being targets when hundreds, if not thousands, of far bigger file-sharing sites were allegedly “guilty” of the same charges.

Was Kim Dotcom targeted for his outspoken nature and lavish personal life to be the global scapegoat for internet copyright infringement?

If so, it seems Dotcom's captors bit off more than they could chew, with hashtag #FreeDotcom trending on Twitter in record time after his arrest.

Fast-forward one year and Dotcom threw a lavish party at his Coatesville mansion to celebrate the launch of a “Privacy Company” that’s “BIGGER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER. SAFER.” – the encrypted file-sharing site, Mega. It also has the added benefit of being so private that even Mega don’t know what their users are uploading – a very handy ‘out’ for when the content of Mega undoubtedly comes under fire again.

When it comes to Dotcom, the colourful events that surround him and his virality with both traditional and social media, it begs the question of is this the chicken or the egg?

Is Dotcom simply a charismatic personality who attracts support and attention? Or is he the puppetmaster behind a strategic PR campaign?

He was making music while imprisoned and released video interviews that give an appealing logic for his case. In the wake of John Banks' alleged political skulduggery, Dotcom fed the fire with a YouTube song titled 'Amnesia'. He even released a song appeal to President Obama demanding he reform internet piracy laws.

In Dotcom’s words “the war for the internet has begun” and his name is now synonymous with internet user rights - a hot-button global issue that grows more and more complex with every IT innovation.

The ‘Free Kim Dotcom’ Facebook Page has almost 10, 000 fans and has evolved into a news aggregator for controversial arrests surrounding IT infringements. It has followed the arrest of Barrett Brown, who now faces 100 years imprisonment for his involvement with the faceless ‘hacktivist’ collective, Anonymous. It also delves into the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz, a talented computer programmer and self-proclaimed applied sociologist. He ended his life after an exhausting two year court battle for an indictment of wire and computer fraud.

While Dotcom often handles his accusations with humour and wit, he is at the heart of a very serious issue and the outcome of his case could set the precedent for future court battles. Is he truly passionate about his cause, or is he simply ‘saying all the right things’ to turn the tide in his favour?

Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin 14 August 2013 and we will be waiting with bated breath to see which way the jury swings.

By Bridget Bisset

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Year Conferences for PR Self Improvement

It's nearing the end of January, some of you will have already started your New Year's resolutions ... some may have already fallen by the wayside ... Among all the focus on health, fitness, relationships and hobbies; don't neglect your career resolutions.

Give your 'job-life' a boost at one of the many Communications, Marketing and Social Media courses and conferences coming up in the next couple of months!


“Understand how digital is increasingly a part of everything we do and how Obama for America leveraged this to connect with tens of millions of people, understand why your business needs to be online and how to utilise social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter to drive revenue and build customer engagement and brand loyalty and find out what the future looks like for social media”

Is a great opportunity to ask industry experts about social media marketing and how you can best use it to boost business.

When: Wed 13 Feb 2013, 07:00 AM
Where: Viaduct Events Centre, 161 Halsey Street, The Viaduct, AKL
Cost: $75

“We will be taking a tour of the rapidly changing landscape of Social Media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Google Plus. Learn how to make the most of these services from both a business and a personal perspective. The importance of managing your personal information well on the internet will be included.”

Course will be led by Christiaan Buijsers. He has 21 years IT experience and has been teaching computing-related courses for adults for over 15 years.
Date: Sat 2 Mar
Time: 9:00am–12:00pm
Where: Western Springs College, 100 Motions Rd, Auckland
Cost: Standard tickets are $36.00 (Booking fees may apply)
Restrictions: R15

  • “Create Social Media Campaigns Which Create BUZZ
  • Inspiration and case studies drawn from a mixture of the most creative and engaging campaigns around
  • Start Seeing ACTUAL Results
  • Effectively evaluate social media activity using the latest social media monitoring, measuring and evaluating practices & see actual ROI
  • Protect Your Brand In A Social Media Crisis
  • Mitigate reputational threats and risks to the business using online crisis frameworks
  • Manage Negativity In Social Media Confidentially & Compliantly
  • Learn online community management best practice, understand the most threatening legal pitfalls and how to tackle
  • Dictate Your Own Social Media Strategy
  • SMK provides framework to dictate and direct your own campaigns, rather than delegating them to third parties”
Suitable for professionals involved with: Marketing / Public Relations / Communications / Digital marketing / Internal comms / E-commerce (from manager to executive level).

Dates: Thursday 7th March and Friday 8th March 2013
Time: 9.30 - Welcome Reception | 10:00 – Start | 16:30 - Finish (each day)
Location: TBC
2 DAYS: $1895 (Full Price) | $1594 (Early  bird)
1 DAY: $995 (Full Price) | $837 (Early  bird)
[Early Bird Offer only available if booked before expiry date]
* All Prices exclude GST

  • “Develop a fully integrated digital marketing strategy including: online, social and mobile
  • Start seeing real ROI from your digital spend
  • Reduce waste and inefficiency in your activity
  • Understand and appreciate the role of different digital media and mediums in the customer journey
  • Have the confidence to brief and manage your agencies or other digital third parties”
Suitable for professionals involved with: Marketing / Public Relations / Communications / Digital marketing / Internal comms / E-commerce (from manager to executive level).

Dates: Monday 4th March and Tuesday 5th March 2013
Time: 9.30 - Welcome Reception | 10:00 – Start | 16:30 - Finish (both days)
Location: Karstens, Rydges Auckland, 59 Federal St Cnr Kingston Street, Central City, Auckland, 1010
2 DAYS: $1895 (Full Price) | $1594 (Early  bird)
1 DAY: $995 (Full Price) | $837 (Early  bird)
[Early Bird Offer only available if booked before expiry date]
* All Prices exclude GST
  • Stay ahead of the game with some well-timed updates, a chance to do some forward thinking and look at what's next, what's possible and what's around the corner on the social web.
  • Learning outcomes
  • Developed understanding of the digital environment
  • Knowledge of trends
  • Improved understanding of software and hardware developments
  • Developed understanding of communication issues and implications arising from emerging technology
Trainer, Catherine Arrow is an international public relations consultant, educator and writer. Secretary of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Catherine is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, a Chartered Public Relations Practitioner and a Member of PRiNZ.
Date: 28 February 2013
Time: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
Venue: TBA
Cost: $200.00 + GST (Earlybird Member) | $355.00 + GST (Earlybird Non-Member)

  • What works when preparing a press release (and what doesn't)
  • How to identify who to go to
  • When to make the approach
  • Part of the preparation of a successful press release depends on its presentation. To assist your chances of ensuring it gets attention, we will also review previous pieces prepared by course participants and offer ways of improvement.
  • As part and parcel of this programme, there will be short sessions on:
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • And the correct use of words for the right occasion will also be included.
  • Learning outcomes
  • Course participants can expect to develop a greater degree of confidence in the ability to prepare and submit a suitable press release for the right occasion and pitch it in a compelling and timely manner.

Suitable for entry level to intermediate - looking to improve media writing, gain media knowledge and develop media relations skills.

Trainer, Geraldine Johns has been working as a print journalist for some thirty years. For the first twenty, she held down a variety of staff writing roles, including New Zealand Herald, Metro magazine, Sunday Star-Times, Baltimore Sun, New Zealand Listener and Bon Appetit magazine.

Date: 13 March 2013
Time: 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Venue: TBA
Cost: $328.00 (Earlybird Member) | $630.00 (Earlybird Non-Member) | $175.00 (Student)

List collated by Bridget Bisset

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pique a Little Pinterest

The rise of Social Media has catalysed the rise in visual content. Facebook has been a key driver in this, encouraging user and brand-generated images and infographics. Visual content is encouraged online by sites like Flickr and Tumblr. High quality cameras on Smartphones and apps such as Instagram have allowed us to upload original, quality visual content to the internet at an extremely fast rate.

This has now lead to the online world being flooded with visual content and Pinterest fulfils the need to curate this content in an easy-to-use interface. Basically an online pinboard, users can upload, pin from the web and share from other users images, or ‘pins’. These can then be categorised onto different ‘boards’. We're even seeing a recent development in the US of 'Pinterest Newsrooms'.

What are the Opportunities for Brands?

Trend Reporting:
Be one of the first to announce trends and improve your reputation in the industry. Become the 'go-to' online source for all the latest happenings in your industry. You will be attracting the same audience you want for your business, not just your Pinterest account.

Gain Feedback:
Do a bit of market research using your pins. What is getting repinned like wildfire and what is being ignored? What are pinners commenting on your pins? This is a great way to find out what people like/don’t like simply by monitoring the activity surrounding your pins/repins.

Crowdsource Ideas:
Want to know what your followers really want? ASK! Pinterest doesn’t have the same restrictions surrounding competitions as Facebook does. There are still guidelines, but it’s fine to run a competition straight from Pinterest without using a third-party app.

Define Your Content:
Just like all other Social Media channels, it is important to define your voice. You need to decide what your content will focus on. For each board, define what percentage will be pinned from your own content, from bloggers, media and other 'industry voices' in your circle of influence and of course, re-pins from other users.

Spread the Word:
While this is a great tool to raise brand awareness and spread knowledge of your products, it's best to keep self-promotion to a minimum. Roughly 2 out of every 10 pins should be showing your product/linking to your site. 
With each pin that you upload from a website, it will automatically link back to that URL. This means that when your website pins ‘go viral’, users are still linked back to your website as the source.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Key Communications Out-takes from RWC2011

Some of the team recently attended a PRINZ Event, ‘Inside the RWC 2011 Communications Plan’. I gained some great insight into the communications planning, lessons and legacies behind New Zealand’s most colossal event, Rugby World Cup 2011.

Auckland's RWC 2011 communications manager (at AucklandTourism Events & Economic Development), Simon Roche co-ordinated and lead Auckland's integrated communications programme leading up to and throughout RWC 2011. His team worked closely alongside stakeholders - rugby unions, venues, Auckland Council, CCOs, Rugby New Zealand 2011 and Central Government, to name a few.

As RWC 2011 was such an enormous event, Simon only had time to scratch the surface of his experiences during his talk with us but he still covered plenty of interesting ground. Read on for my key out-takes of his astute learnings from the role.

From the first discussion the RWC was up against a multitude of challenges. Aucklanders are notoriously apathetic, but without local support the event was destined to be a flop. One of the major challenges was inciting passion amongst Auckland residents - a tough crowd to please!

The RWC Overall Communications Strategy:

Main Goals
1. Development of Auckland waterfront
2. Auckland’s reputation as well as the overall reputation of New Zealand
3. Pride and community engagement I.e. Tidying up towns and suburbs
4. Transport – Bricks and mortar upgrades, as well as people actually using the transport system
5. RWC 2011 to work as launching pad to establish Auckland as an event destination, stabilising event logistics and processes simultaneously.

There were two major risks of real concern. First and foremost were the facility upgrades (I.e. ‘The Cloud’ and stadium renovations). How would they be funded and how could they ensure their readiness in time for the tournament?

The other main issue to deal with was too few or too many coming. If they went to lightly on promotional PR tactics, the event would be lacklustre and considered a flop, not to mention the monetary ramifications. Too many and facilities wouldn’t be able to cope, as well as crowd control issues.

Early on, surveys were done to gauge attendance numbers for opening night events. The resulting conclusion was the very great likelihood of a small turnout to the opening night. The recommendation to remedy this was a large marketing/promotional campaign aimed to boost Opening Night attendance numbers at both Eden Park and the waterfront.

Opening Night:

Part I: Media & promotion
Part II: Transport, event spaces in CBD

We are all very familiar with what happened on Opening Night. After what was clearly a very successful marketing and promotional campaign, the Auckland waterfront (including Fan Zones, The Cloud, Wynyard Quarter etc) was overwhelmed by huge numbers of ‘revellers’. Adding to that were severe transportation shortages.

When the first indication of overcrowding came to light, an emergency comms plan involving strong messaging to warn punters of large crowds was implemented. However, a combination of circumstances such as warm weather, it being a Friday night and the alcohol factor caused the issue to be greater than what could be managed.

Whether or not you are a fan of Len Brown, it was heartening for Simon to see Len prepared to bear the brunt of the opening night mis-haps. At an impromptu meeting at 1.30am on opening night, Len was asking the RWC Comms team what they needed him to do and how they needed him to respond. This is a refreshing reaction as figureheads are often seen trying to relinquish any blame in those types of circumstances.

After this incident, PR on the more popular events was reduced (i.e. popular music events at The Cloud) during game time to avoid further crowd control issues.

Success of the Fan Trail:

This was an innovative move and innovation tends to be met with either adulation at one end or cynicism at the other. The idea for the Fan Trail was initially born as a solution to transport issues. However, it was not intended to be a necessary evil, but a fun and integral part of the event that nobody would want to miss.

By placing performers along the Fan Trail before every game, it became an entertainment factor in itself that generated buzz and drew bigger and bigger crowds. By the final game, it drew 41,000 punters! Clearly, most of these were not attending the game, but the success of the fan trail was such that people seized their last chance to join in the atmosphere of the pre-game wander to the stadium.

From day 1, many people came to see Queens Wharf. Either all the bad publicity was good publicity as people came out of curiosity to check it out, or they were simply overseas visitors who were unaware of the flack the initiatives had received.

The Final Night:

The pressure was on. RWC Comms and many members of the public felt that the media had blown the Opening Night issues out of proportion. This time they were determined to manage the issues, including media, more effectively.

Social Media played a crucial role throughout, communicating the same key message to all the different components of the events, ensuring the message remained consistent and unscrambled when it finally reached the punters.

Announcement boards, loudspeakers, Social Media and staff on site were the key communicators, constantly updating with the same message. The tactic was to fill up Queens Wharf first, and so on, until Aotea Square was filled 10minutes before the game started - the optimum result! The experience learned from this is that it is easier to manage in multiple venues for celebrations than cramming into one.

Finally, how do you plan a victory parade, without anyone knowing you are counting your chickens or jinxing the team? Very carefully, it would seem. All media were warned beforehand, and all bar The Herald manage to keep it under wraps.

Lessons Learned:
A great lesson learned was how to handle proactive media. As long as you provide a friendly environment and encourage them to approach for stories off their own bat, plus some media liaison, guidelines & regulation will generally be adhered to.

Cultural differences must be respected. A variety of team welcomes were required, so a well-researched plan was put in place to accommodate all different cultural needs and aspects.  Also, there is no better ambassador for Auckland than a visitor who has been here and had a good time.

In hindsight, Simon stresses the importance of and international tourism program (in this case run by Tourism New Zealand); the importance of international media and creating strong relationships in this area; and just how instrumental the rugby players themselves were in getting international coverage.
Communications is a temperamental industry. All in all you need to be prepared for anything and to learn from your mistakes!

By Bridget Bisset

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

PR and the Law: Definitions, Tensions & Effect of Satirical Social Media

Some of the markomPR team recently attended a PRINZ seminar 'Public Relations and the Law - implications for PR practitioners' presented by Rosemary Tobin (Associate Professor The University of Auckland Faculty of Law) and Clive Elliott (Barrister - Intellectual Property Lawyer).

There is an overlap between Privacy and Defamation laws. Both are concerned with people’s rights to both conceal and publicise information within our society, but differ due to one being concerned with what is true and one not. Both are often at loggerheads with every individual’s right to freedom of speech.

So how do we separate what is within your rights and what is not? And how are these traditional media laws to adapt and adopt with what is being broadcast via new media channels?Firstly, we will give a quick overview of the Privacy and Defamation laws in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Privacy Act 1993 sets out principles in relation to the “collection, use, disclosure, security and access to personal information”, with complaints considered by the Privacy Commissioner.

The Hosking v Runting case is a very good example of a tort concerning invasion of personal privacy in New Zealand.

Publication (in a defamatory context) is defined as something spoken or communicated to a third party (not the plaintiff).
A publication cannot be an attempt to convey information. The information or message must be successfully received by the third party for it to be considered published.

We all have the right to freedom of speech, but it can be difficult to protect yourself. Book disclaimers are a necessary measure, but in reality, can do very little to prevent accusations of defamation and will only reduce damages were a successful case brought against you.

Defaming words do not even have to refer to a plaintiff by name, if the reference can be definitively proved to be the plaintiff.

A grey area that we often see, and it pays to choose your words carefully, is when a writer places both the bane (defamatory publication) and the antidote (statement which sufficiently nullifies the previous defamatory publication) within the same article. Whilst this is a great technique to use in your writing to emphasise a point, it needs to be done delicately to avoid miscommunication.

So what are the exceptions? There are 3 main defences most commonly used in defamation cases:

Absolute Privilege: A legal immunity granted to Politian’s, protecting them from legal accusations relating to what is said during Parliamentary proceedings. Can also apply to judicial proceedings and other legal matters, and very select special cases.

Qualified Privilege: You had a duty to report what you thought to be true, especially if it was deemed to be a matter of public concern. This usually applies within governmental institutions and the workplace.

Honest Opinion: The publication must be worded in a way that implies that it was their opinion, mainly a reason why. They must provide a rationale.

Truth: Is a fourth defence option. It is the most concrete, yet one of the hardest to prove.

So now that we know where we stand legally, where should we stand with best practice, PR-wise? There is a big difference between the concrete law and what would be considered best PR practice.

For instance, John Key’s handling of the ‘tea tapes’. Whilst John Key was on the right side of the law and his privacy rights had been breached, was the media storm that ensued and the negative PR worth it in the long run? Rather than sticking to his guns over the “moral stance”, would Key have been better off coming clean about what he said in the tapes and nipping it in the bud there and then?

New Media vs. The Law

A recent defamation case in the Canadian Supreme Court was divided over a new media issue. Can a hyperlink be considered a publication? Whilst there were differing opinions on the panel, it was eventually decided that the matter of linking to allegedly defamatory web pages in itself could never be considered a ‘publication’.

"I would conclude that a hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as 'publication' of the content to which it refers," says Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella. [source: ars technica]

However, in the circumstance of referencing hyperlinked content within your own article, this can be considered publication.

They define this exception to the rule as "only when a hyperlinker presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that actually repeats the defamatory content, should that content be considered to be 'published' by the hyperlinker." [source: ars technica]

An issue a little closer to home has been the recent review of new media regulation. Satirical Twitter accounts, such as a less-than-flattering Don Brash spoof account, have come under scrutiny for impersonating public figures.

“Impersonation of public figures on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, was among the issues considered by the commission in a review of new media regulation launched by then-Justice Minister Simon Power late last year.” [source: New Zealand Herald]

But it seems most have stayed just within the boundaries of the law. Satirical Social Media is here to stay (for now).

Intellectual Property:
This is yet another aspect of the law that has become more and more diverse with the rise of new media.

Intellectual Property (IP) involves the protection of ideas, especially those that are intangible. In New Zealand written texts, music, films, software, artistic works are automatically copyright protected from creation.

Trademarks are basically the copyright equivalent of brands and logos (or even colours, shapes, sounds, smells!).

Soft IP refers to trademarks, the look and feel of a brand and it’s branding. Hard IP refers to patents, design, copyright, trade secrets and layout design.

By registering both copyrights and trademarks you are ensuring stronger protection for your IP.

Some of the ‘hot topics’ revolving around IP right now are:
Social Networking: Breaches of copyright are rife on Social Networking sites like YouTube and Tumbr. How can something as subjective and unregulated as Social Media protect an individual’s IP?

Fair Use: It is so easy to copy and reproduce texts, images, music and video in the digital age, what can be done to ensure a fair use policy? When a song is bought online for a single user, what prevents that user from passing it on to many?

Domain Names: With so many variations of ip addresses and domain name possibilities, how do you protect your brand from potential impersonations?

Privacy Intrusions: The sheer availability and ease of access to vast amounts of sensitive or personal information means privacy intrusions are more and more likely. How many celebrities have had photos and contacts leaked through the hacking of Twitter accounts, smartphones and Facebook profiles? Personal information is stolen from hacked Social Media accounts more and more often.

Software Patents: Software developers are continually in a race to produce the next best app. There are similarities between software all over the place.

Traditional Rights: Concerns the rights on an indigenous culture – their customs, traditions and artworks. Maori IP rights have become a major issue in New Zealand.
By Bridget Bisset

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Subediting Tip: Write Clearly to Get Your Message Across

‘IT PAYS TO CHECK: Document editing for workplaces’ was an all-day PRINZ course. It was held by Howard Warner, a specialist in Plain English editing at Plain English People.

The main objective of the course was to define editing and gain a better knowledge of editing processes, particularly for workplace documents.

It is extremely important to have easily readable, professional-looking documents in every aspect of your business. Even with informal documents you need to write in a way that ensures clear communications, including emails and memos.

Often, your business will only ever be viewed in writing. Every piece of text that represents your company needs to be consistent with the brands overall voice and message. First impressions are often made in written form. The more clearly you write, the more accurately your message will be get across.

The reader is the most important factor to think of when editing. If you do not make the text easy to read and compelling for them, it won’t get read. The message will not reach your audience and you have wasted your time.

The main point stressed was the “who, did, what”. This refers to the subject/verb/object/adverbial structure of a clause, which sentences are built from. The brain naturally processes information in this order. They are the key points every reader wants to know.

The second point was to “use more full stops”. This allows the reader to pause, giving them time to absorb and process information. If your subject matter is dense, sentences should be short and worded simply.

I learned that there are no solid rules with some grammar principles. Linguists have found that words that often go together begin as separate words. They are then hyphenated, finally becoming one word over time. There are no clear rules for these occurrences. It is a matter of consistency and preference. This is where a style guide is needed.

A style guide lays out a clear set of rules for how to go about specific grammar grey areas. This includes how a brand name is written. Will ‘the’ be capitalised in your name? How will it be referred to if a shortened version is needed?

Every company should have a style guide outlining all these preferences. This will ensure consistency across all documents. Often companies don't have a comprehensive guide. The solution here is to use a standard style guide, such as Fit to Print by Janet Hughes and Derek Wallace. As you edit you should jot down guidelines, specific to this document, in a style sheet. Reference this sheet throughout the rest of the editing process.

Professional editing is done in passes. The first time you pass through the document you will focus on structural editing. This ensures sentences on the same topic are within the same paragraph. Paragraphs also need to be in the relevant order. This is not necessarily chronological, but the order that will make the most sense to the reader.

The sentence-level editing pass comes next. Sentences are to focus on one idea each. Word choices are carefully considered and anything unnecessary is removed. Sentence structure will adhere to the ‘who, did, what’ principle. This is also the time to tidy up punctuation.

A ‘fine-tuning’ or ‘proof-reading’ pass comes next. This is where you double-check for spelling and typos. It is also time to refer back to the style sheet and style guide, ensuring all instances are consistent.

Finally, we reach the formatting pass. This can be merged with the third stage, depending on the complexity of the document. This includes visual elements, so look for things like white space. There should be plenty of this to break up large blocks of text and help the reader follow the text easily. Large lists should be broken up into bullet points. You also need to consider things like typography – is the text easy to read? Test navigation details such as sub-headings and page numbers for usability.

Overall I really enjoyed the course. It was great to get a professional perspective on the finer points of editing. Editing in passes is something I will now use on every document I edit. Of course, many points I already had (and should have) learned.

It was great to get a refresher and drive some of the key points home. It cleared up several grey areas for me that will have me investing in a generic style guide and going through the finer details with every client.

By Bridget Bisset
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pike River Mine Crisis Communications Examined

The Pike River mining disaster occurred on Friday 19 November, 2010 when an explosion trapped 29 workers inside the mine. Rescue attempts were delayed due to the risk of another explosion. Over the next 9 days, the mine suffered 3 more explosions. It was clear that there would be no survivors.

In the aftermath of this tragic event, the Pike River Mine company has come under fire. It is alleged that
safety standards were not up to scratch, especially compared to Australian mining standards. Many believe the ventilation systems within the mine were not capable of dealing with the excessive drilling that was going on and there was no suitable ‘secondary exit’ as is required. Pike River Mine was experiencing very serious financial issues, including a desperate bid to a major shareholder asking $70 million, coinciding with the explosions. The company has since gone into receivership.
Peter Whittall, Chief Executive of Pike River Mine, was the face of the company and is now the face of disaster.

Throughout the process, unsuspecting members of the Greymouth community have been elevated to hero status by the media. One of them is
Greymouth District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who has been struggling with the public attention he has received since tirelessly working to get the town back on its feet. He is heavily involved with the Pike River Fund, which has raised more than $7 million - most of which will go to the victim’s families.
Media releases published under the name and contact details of Mr. Kokshoorn himself have kept everyone up-to-date with how much money has been raised, what it is being used for and what fundraising initiatives are being planned. With his own cellphone number at the bottom of the release, Mr. Kokshoorn has made himself extremely accessible to those with enquiries – good or bad.

This open and honest approach seems to be what has won him so many fans, and whether this is down to proficient media training or he is just genuinely passionate for the cause is still up for debate.

If Tony Kokshoorn, face of the town and people who are the victims, is the chosen hero of the media then who is the villain? Initially, the owners and upper management of the mine itself were to blame. But it seems to have had a flow on effect where the
Department of Conservation had overlooked issues, then New Zealand Mining Standards were to blame and now it seems the stance to take is that mining in general is the problem.

With the continual disasters in Christchurch hot on the heels of the mine explosion, it seemed that Pike River scapegoat Peter Whittall had been eclipsed by a whole new media frenzy. But with the re-opening of the
inquest he is back under the spotlight again.

The Pike River fund has strengthened it’s credibility by
no longer accepting donations, as they would prefer it went to the quake victims. What have Pike River Mining and Peter Whittall done to salvage their reputation? Since the company went into receivership they seem to have been noticeably absent as a voice in the media, aside from quotes relating to the inquest that would have been extracted by the media with or without a fight.
Hotelier Bernie Monk lost his son in the Pike River explosions and is also the Spokesman for families of the Pike River victims. On their behalf, he has expressed dissatisfaction with the communication between Pike River Mine and the affected. Significant news and developments have often been broken to these families by the media, rather than representatives of the mine. Mr. Monk believes this isn’t good enough and the lines of communication need to be more open. They should be getting the news first hand, straight away.

One of the major grievances from the grief-stricken families was when they received updates about the lack of mining safety standards and quality inspections ‘secondhand’ via various media.

Now Mr. Monk’s number one priority is to get to the truth of what happened. He says the inquest has made significant progress into answering this. He also believes the commissioners leading the process will come to the right conclusions, bringing the case to a satisfactory close – much to the relief of Greymouth residents.

Can budget or time restraints be to blame for the Pike River Mine’s lack of Crisis Management action? One would think it would be very high on their priority list. It needn’t have been hugely expensive. After initially seeking some professional media training and advice, an appropriate spokesperson could have been selected as the ‘face of the campaign’ and creating a more open and honest image for the company. By using social media channels regularly and RSS feeds, they would have been able to get their message across to the public and any skeptics – for free.

The official “
Supporting the Pike River miners” page has 139,386. It is filled with tributes from fans and filled with constant updates and coverage of the inquest – all with positive feedback. A “Support for Tony Kokshoorn-Greymouth Mayor” Facebook fan page has 968 fans and yet more positive feedback.

At least 4 pages “Supporting Peter Whittall” have sprung up on Facebook. Combined, these pages have attracted over 26,000 fans in total. But judging by a very
mixed bag of comments, it is hard to tell who is genuinely supportive and who is just there to throw a jibe at him. But the common thread seems to be the strong desire for a resolution and to bring the inquest to a satisfactory close.
Pike River Mine’s obvious lack of voice within in the media has done nothing to help their case. It only succeeds in helping to validate the claims and accusations against them. If there was more substance to their claims of innocence their voice most likely would have been far louder. They needed to take a stronger stance from the beginning, claiming responsibility and resisting the urge to play the blame game. By accepting the consequences of their actions early on, they could have then got on and did all they could to make amends, rather than trying to relinquish responsibility with excuses such as receivership.

Accidents do happen. They can’t always be prevented. It’s what we do in the wake of these scenarios that really counts. If the Greymouth Mayor was able to raise $7 million dollars for relief around all his regular duties, Peter Whittall and his Pike River buddies definitely were capable of something on a similar scale.
By Bridget Bisset

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What does Jacqueline Bisset and our newest recruit have in common?

Both are of the same namesake! Please welcome, Bridget Bisset, our latest ‘find’ from thousands of applicants for our PR intern position here at markomPR.

A Hamiltonian at heart, Bridget graduated from WINTEC in 2010 with a Bachelor of Media Arts – Communications (PR & Advertising) and has made the big move to the City of Sails to further her communications career.

A fascination with all-things journalism, combined with talents for writing, creative thinking and problem-solving, eventually lead to discovering her passion for PR.

Bridget received the ‘Gordon Chesterman Award for Excellence in Public Relations – 3rd Year’ in 2009. For those not in the know, Gordon is an elder statesman of the public relations industry with a distinguished career in public relations, advertising, marketing, manufacturing and export.

Bridget’s already cut her teeth with an internship at the Hamilton Community Arts Council where she planned, developed and implemented the inaugural Hamilton Artists’ Directory.

When not at the beach office of markomPR, she snowboards just-for-fun and has a love of all things fashion, art and music.

Curious by nature, she is fascinated by sociology and contemporary issues, so is always researching the latest finds.

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